Cinema Stanzas Two: Poet Laureate of the Movies by Betty Jo Tucker, film critic

​Cinema Stanzas: Poet Laureate of the  Movies Cinema Stanzas Two: Poet Laureate of the Movies is a sequel to the award-winning Cinema Stanzas: Rhyming About Movies. This time, film critic Betty Jo Tucker explains how her wish to become the poet laureate of the movies originated, and the book emerges as a kind of audition. This second offering in the series presents over 70 movie reviews/film poems Tucker has written since the first book was published as well as several of her other poems that relate to cinema. She covers films of various genres -- comedy, drama, fantasy, horror/action/sci-fi, musicals, mystery/thriller, and romance. Along with major motion pictures and Oscar® winners like The Shape of Water and Roma, many small independent films -- and even one short movie -- receive Tucker’s rhyming treatment. The book is written to serve as a resource for fans of both movies and poetry.  

I blame both filmmaker Robert Altman and tap dancing for my journey into the mysterious world of poetry. A rather incongruous pair, right? So I've got some explaining to do. For many, many years I functioned fairly well as a practicing movie addict and somewhat conventional film critic. Then one morning way back in 2002, I sat down to write a review of Altman's Gosford Park. As I looked at the blank page, my toes started tapping rhythmically - and to my great surprise, a poem about the movie danced onto the page. Here's the first of five verses:

You're invited for a weekend at a country estate.
Pack your finest duds, wouldn't want to be late.
Arriving in the drawing room, you're surrounded by class.
Who's who and what's what, you are dying to ask.
Doin' the Gosford Park shuffle.

Now, freeze frame that for a minute while we go back farther in time. During my teens, nextto the movies I loved tap dancing best. It got me through some very hard times while growing up. I enjoyed the beat of tap routines and even felt more in tune with the universe when I practiced or performed them. And the lyrics of those popular tunes I danced to fascinated me. 

No wonder my poems rely heavily on rhythm and rhyme and give me such pleasure while writing or reading them out loud. In fact, if you read the entire Gosford Park Shuffle poem out loud to me right now, I would be tap dancing along to the sound of your voice, especially if you emphasize the poem's beat and rhyme scheme.  

Although that review earned praise from a number of readers, I still continued writing traditional film critiques until A Prairie Home Companion, another Robert Altman film, appeared on the scene. Altman is one of my favorite directors, so it pained me to pan Gosford Park, even in a poem. Here was a chance to give this terrific director some well-deserved praise! And so Ode to A Prairie Home Companion came to life, accompanied by more toe-tapping.  

Since then, I've written 70 film poems - all included in Cinema Stanzas: Rhyming About Movies --which represents a small portion of over 1,000 reviews contributed to various outlets. However, because my film poem/reviews receive such enthusiastic feedback -- and because I enjoy writing them so much -- I find myself turning to this format more and more lately. Still, it remains a mystery how the poems come to me. I do, however, try to heed the following advice from a real poet. 

Tell all the truth but let it slant. Celebrate the ordinary and be choosy. - Emily Dickinson

If I get to vote for Poet Laureate of Movies, you are in! 

--- Artist/Poet/Author Judy Joy Jones

Poet Laureate of Movies is a most befitting title for Betty Jo Tucker,  beloved by all and humbled by the films and filmmakers that have been memorialized in her poems! 

--- Gail Parenteau, Producer and Public Relations Strategist
"Poet Laureate of Movies" for Betty Jo seems right. Here's to her writing poems every single night.​

--- Brian T Shirley, Actor/Writer/Director 
Betty Jo Tucker serves as editor/lead film critic for ReelTalk Movie Reviews. She also writes film commentary for the Colorado Senior Beacon and is the award-winning author of Confessions of a Movie Addict and Susan Sarandon: A True Maverick. She hosts a radio show, "Movie Addict Headquarters," on BlogTalkRadio. Using the pen names of Harry and Elizabeth Lawrence, Betty Jo and her husband Larry co-wrote It Had To Be Us, a romantic memoir now in the early stages of film adaptation. She is also a member of the San Diego Film Critics Society and the Online Film Critics Society.  
You are the Poet Laureate of the Movies, Betty Jo Tucker. A true inspiration. 

--- Film Critic/Poet Richard Jack Smith, Author of A Poet Among Critics


Some movies seem like poetry in motion to me, mostly because the filmmakers involved tell their stories using beautiful images backed up by haunting background music and scenes that pack an emotional wallop. One recent example is At Eternity’s Gate starring Willem Dafoe as painter Vincent Van Gogh. After watching this remarkable film, I was motivated to write a poem about the movie. Below are a few lines from my poem: 

It’s time to praise Willem Dafoe
for his work as Vincent Van Gogh.
Watching “At Eternity’s Gate,”
we see painting as Vincent’s fate.

Lush with color and shapes unique,
such artistry for one to seek!
His sunflowers and starry skies
now please most everybody’s eyes.

Scenes touch something down deep inside,
seeing how Vincent lived and died.

  For the past few years, I have added poems to my movie reviews. Perhaps that’s why some of my fans and colleagues have started calling me “Poet Laureate of the Movies.” At first, I thought it was a joke, but now I feel honored even to be mentioned in that way. In fact, I have done a bit of research about this topic. 
  The whole thing started when King James I officially appointed John Dryden as Poet Laureate of England back in 1668. Dryden’s duties were to keep writing poems, particularly for special occasions. And now there are over 40 countries that have their own Poet Laureate. States, communities and organizations also appoint a Poet Laureate. In the U.S.A. the Librarian of Congress choses a Poet Laureate each year.
  What are the qualifications to be a Poet Laureate? The person should be an honored poet who agrees to compose poems during his/her tenure. Colorado surprised everyone in 1974 by appointing singer/songwriter John Denver to this position. But I thought that was fine. After all, a songwriter is also a poet! 
  So what should be the qualifications for a Poet Laureate of the Movies? She or he should be a poet honored for achievement who agrees to continue writing poems about films and special cinema events such as the Oscars®.  
  Because my book Cinema Stanzas: Rhyming About Movies was a winner in the Poetry category at the 2016 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards contest, I view that as an honor. And I hope this sequel -- Cinema Stanzas Two: Poet Laureate of the Movies -- proves my eagerness to continue writing poems about movies as an important part of my writing career.  
Composing poems can be a curse.
It fills your mind but not your purse.
Those sleepless nights with words that rhyme
can lead to ruin or fame sublime.

But when the poems are film reviews,
that’s not the path most critics use.
A Movies Poet Laureate?
Is that what I am aiming at?
Some dear fans have already claimed
it’s what I truly should be named.
To mention that just makes me blush.
Don’t plan on it or even rush.

But read these poems so you will know
if the answer is yes or no.
  Most of all, as with the first Cinema Stanzas, I wrote this book for readers who love both poetry and the movies. It includes over 70 reviews/film poems of movies released during 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 as well as several poems related to cinema. Various genres are included, so just dive in anywhere – and enjoy!
Betty Jo Tucker  
Pueblo, Colorado  
If ever there was a Poet Laureate of the Movies, Betty Jo Tucker should receive that coveted award. --- Grace Blair, Award-winning author of Einstein’s Compass: A YA Time Traveler Adventure

I first wrote about Cinema Stanzas, the first book in this series, and said it was unique. My mind has not been changed. Cinema Stanzas II is also unique in its ability to capture the essence of each film. I haven’t had the privilege of seeing most of these films so it is nice to have a writer you trust to see them for you. Of course, you are going to make up your own mind when seeing them.

The artful reviews about so many genres of film will have you reading this volume so quickly you know that you will refer to it again and again. Cinema Stanzas II is not unlike the quote from Gilda Radner about Gene Wilder, “I felt like my life went from black and white to Technicolor.”

I am reminded of the many books Roger Ebert published of his reviews. Each one was good to have on hand if you were a true movie fan. You’ll find such grace and humor in each film’s poem you’ll forget that Mrs. Tucker doesn’t publish books of poetry regularly. So, check out the poetry, the reviews, and the warmth. Collect this eBook, and send it as a gift, you know your friends will enjoy pretty much what you like.

- Chris Mansel
“I really enjoyed the way Betty Jo Tucker pulls back the curtain in her reviews and talks about the actors and film making. The movie reviews are entertaining and fun to read. The icing on the cake is her poetry with each one which is just the right amount of observation and insight. Amazingly she covers every genre and there are no spoilers! Cinema Stanzas Two is interesting and easy reading for anyone.” --- Jane Bernard, author of Fine Tuning and Lucid Living